(Chapel Hills, NC) – We have been down this road before, at the end of the 1987 season, the North Carolina Tar Hills, who had just finished a 5-6 season, saw their all-time winning head coach, Dick Crum, resigned. As a result, the Tar Heels announced a new 36 -year old head coach.
Crum resigned on November 30, 1987 when it was announced that the UNC football program no longer enjoyed the full support of all elements of the university community. While Jim Donnan, then an Oklahoma assistant appeared to be the favorite, Mack Brown, who was the head coach at Tulane, was hired as the Tar Heel coach.
Browns only had two wins in first two seasons in Chapel Hills, Georgia Tech in year one and VMI in the second. But after those two seasons finished at 2-20, Brown’s 1990 team finished over .500 at 6-4-1 and included wins over Duke, Maryland and Wake Forest. Brown’s success over the next nine seasons ushered in one of the greatest sustained eras of North Carolina football.
But he always yearned for more. One of his closest friends at North Carolina, Professor Dick Coop said at the time, “Mack wants to be at a place where football is Number One., where the stadium is the place to be on Saturday.” After finishing 10-1 in 1988, Brown left Chapel Hill to become the Texas Longhorn head coach. .
Taking over for John Mackovic, he had immediate success at Texas, he took a team that went 4-7 the year before and finished 9-3 with a Cotton Bowl win. He put Texas back on top, which was culminated with the 2005 National Championship behind QB Vince Young. He would go back to the championship game four years later but lose to Alabama and then slip to a losing record the next year. He ultimately retired after the 2012 season and went to work as a broadcaster on ESPN.
Ultimately, the call came for him to return after previous Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora was fired, and on November 27, 2018, Brown was once again the head coach of the Tar Heels, this time a 66-year old coach. Will the Tar Hell faithful and leadership will be as patient as they were the first time? That is the main question, but entering spring practice, there are several more?
1-How will they improve recruiting. Their recruiting has slipped horribly. Their class just signed was ranked 13th out of 14 in the ACC. Brown emphasized that he wants to focus on in-state recruits, does he still have the energy to create the recruiting buzz. Also, is he ready to adapt to this new era of social media recruiting where the prospects get more attention than ever?
2-What will his offense look like? Fedora’s offense was very different from what Brown ran previously at North Carolina and Texas, will he adapt to best fit the players he has or will he change things up?
3-Does he still have the stamina? Coaches keep getting younger and younger it seems, the rigors take its toll. Will he be able to must the energy needed to compete with the likes of Dabo Swinney and other ACC new hires like Manny Diaz at Miami and Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech?
4-Who will his first quarterback be? Last year’s incumbent, Nathan Elliott, who started nine games elected to leave school to join Arkansas State as a graduate assistant. Who will take the snaps for the 2019 Tar Heels?
5-How can he take back the state? North Carolina State, Duke and Wake Forest have all surpassed the Tar Heels, they even took a bad beat from East Carolina last year. In order to compete in the ACC, he will first have to compete in his home state.
Don’t bet against a Hall-of-Famer, but the odds will be against Brown, the clock is ticking, and the main reason that he left the first time (the program is still very much in the shadows of the basketball team) is more prevalent than ever. Look for Brown to make a huge impact in his first year, but will it be enough to create momentum, we will have to see how that plays out. Look for one milestone however, Brown only needs four wins to surpass Crum as the Tar Heel coach with the most wins, he should move past that goal during the upcoming year, but will that be enough?
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